We regularly get emails from consumers wanting to know where they stand with their broadband provider. Follow this guide for help resolving common disputes.
My dispute is dragging on
If you have a problem with your broadband provider that can't be solved within eight weeks, then you can contact independent adjudicators CICAS or Ombudsman Services: Communications for help. Both provide a free service to help solve disputes between members of the public and ISPs.
(Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme) was set
up in 2003 to help settle disagreements between ISPs and their
customers. However, your broadband provider must be a CISAS member
for them to get involved
- Ombudsman Services: Communications provides a free and independent service. Your ISP must be an Ombudsman Services: Communications member - so check the the members list on the Ombudsman Services website to check if your provider is involved.
You can also contact us at broadbandchoices, and we'll try to help with any issues you have with your provider.
I feel I'm being consistently overcharged
Customers with package bundles are occasionally overcharged for one aspect of that bundle, such as home phone call charges.
Keeping bills and statements in order will make it easier to resolve any issues as they arise. Keep detailed records of any payments you have made to your ISP, including bank statements, bills and tariff agreements. If you've been overcharged, calculate the exact amount that you feel has been charged erroneously.
Once you have done this, contact your provider to ask for a refund. If the problem continues, put your complaint in writing and ask for a refund, and bill adjustment, through the official complaints procedure.
Do not accept a goodwill payment from your broadband provider until the case has been fully followed through. You may be accepting an amount that is significantly less than you deserve.
I've been misled by broadband advertising
Broadband adverts have been criticised for describing speeds incorrectly. For instance, a connection may be described as "up to 16Mb", when "from 7Mb" might be more appropriate.
It's difficult for providers to deliver their headline speeds, which is why they are advertised as "up to". Factors such as distance from the exchange, traffic management and contention will all slow you down. Your broadband provider should give you an estimate of the speed you will actually receive when you sign up.
If you want to see what speeds you're getting, take a broadband speed test.
Another issue that we often hear about is network coverage. Broadband providers advertise their best deals, but these are often only available to customers living in local loop unbundled (LLU) areas. Some ISP's networks only cover around 50 per cent of the UK, meaning that certain areas won't be able to sign up at all.
If you have acted on an advert, only to be disappointed or have your time wasted, write to the Advertising Standards Authority and state both the advert and the misleading information.
A representative has made promises but hasn't kept them
This is tricky, as staff turnover in call centres can be rapid, and individual calls hard to trace.
Always take the full name of the employee who makes changes to your account, regardless of whether they're upgrading or downgrading your package, and note the date and time of the call. Ask for a written contract or official letter sent to you detailing any changes to your agreement.
I've been the victim of poor customer service
Poor customer service has been a big issue with broadband providers and although some have struggled to improve the problem, others, like O2 Broadband (www.O2.co.uk) have set the standard in customer service, with free, 24-hour access to UK-based call centres and reliable advice.
If you have an issue with your provider that you feel hasn't been properly dealt with by customer services, make an official complaint - you might be entitled to an apology or refund and, in extreme cases - where your provider takes a lengthy amount of time to action a refund or requested alteration to your service - a compensation payment.
My broadband connection has failed but I'm still being billed
Make sure that you contact your broadband provider as soon as the fault occurs. If it isn't resolved quickly, the company should reduce your bill according to the length of time that your connection is down.
In most cases, if your broadband does not work for four weeks after activation, then you have the right to cancel your contract under the "termination clause".
A case in May 2007 saw a claimant, whose faulty connection had been dormant for a month, have their contract cancelled and bills written off.
Be sure to inform your ISP, in writing, that you intend to cancel the contract after four weeks citing the "termination clause". They will not automatically assume this, and if you don't inform them of your intentions then it may affect any future claims that you make.
Check that you're writing to the correct department and targeting the right people.
My tariff has been changed without notice
Contact your broadband provider as soon as you realise what has happened - they should correct the problem straight away. Use bills and bank statements to add credibility to your claims.
If the issue isn't resolved immediately and you lose confidence in the company, and wish to switch broadband provider, an incident like this should be enough to allow you to leave the contract without penalty.
I've moved house but there have been complications with my broadband connection
Although rare, delays of up to nine weeks have been reported by customers moving their broadband connection from one house to another.
Successful compensation claims in these cases are rare; there are simply too many issues and variables - such as line tags - for your broadband provider to guarantee a smooth move.
Work closely with your provider when moving home to provide all the necessary information as soon as possible.
If you're moving regularly then why not consider a mobile broadband connection or a no-contract broadband package?
My ISP refuses to give me my MAC
According to Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, your broadband provider must provide your MAC code by telephone, letter or email within five working days of your request, and you shouldn't have to ask more than once.
Make an official complaint to the provider if your MAC code hasn't been issued within a reasonable time frame.
Direct debits have been taken from my account without authorisation
If you have migrated from one ISP to another, and are still having payments taken from your account by your old provider, contact them as soon as possible to arrange a refund.
Never assume that just because you've requested a MAC, the provider will instantly terminate your account. MACs are sometimes requested and not used if the customer decides to stay with their old ISP. If you decide to switch broadband provider reinforce the cancellation on the phone and in writing - but not until your line has switched to your new broadband provider or you could face a break in your connection.
Take the issue up immediately with your former provider, using bank statements to back up your argument. All broadband companies are obliged by law to refund these payments and remove your personal details from live databases.
If you don't have any joy, you can take your claim to a small claims court. It will cost you £30 to make a claim of up to £300.
My ISP has taken my address details incorrectly, resulting in confusion and billing disputes
If promised hardware, such as a modem or router, or a contract agreement with a new provider has not reached you within five days of the deal being agreed, contact the company to check your address details. The longer you leave it, the less credible your argument becomes.
Additionally, make sure you know your password or any other required personal details needed to make changes to your account.
The webmail service offered by my provider has never worked
Webmail problems can cause frustration, waste time and even cause you to lose some important information. Most providers offer a free webmail service as part of their package, and if you subscribe to the service, the company has a duty to make sure it works.
Back up important information on your hard drive to make sure that if you do have problems with your webmail account lost information won't result in financial penalties and contact your provider as soon as possible to get the problem sorted.
I've been sent faulty hardware
If your modem or wireless router doesn't work, contact your provider immediately and inform them of the fault. Technical support will probably go over the settings with you to make sure that the issue can't be resolved over the phone. If your hardware still doesn't work, your provider will then ask you to send it back to them for testing, and it will be replaced.
If your hardware is found to be faulty you should be refunded for any postage costs incurred during this exchange.
It is not a good idea to have a third party engineer work on your modem or router before you send it back to the ISP. The work that the engineer carries out may default your claim, plus the cost of the engineer won't be covered by your provider.
Do I have to return my modem at the end of the contract period?
Although most providers include a router for free as part of a package, some may expect it to be sent back if you switch to a new supplier. Check first to see if the modem is included in the package for free, if you're required to pay for the modem, or if the modem is being leased to you for the contract duration.
How to deal with your provider
There are a few ways that you can increase your chances of resolving any disputes quickly and efficiently.
It can be frustrating to deal with foreign call centres or have to explain your problem to different people over and over. However, you should always stay calm when dealing with your supplier - getting angry will only make the situation worse.
Plan what you're going to say in advance - are you complaining about a billing fault or poor customer service?
Keep a record of how many calls you had to make, and how long they lasted so that you can reclaim call costs for ongoing issues. Keep a diary of who you spoke to and when, as well as what they said.
Know what you want - have an idea of what the company could do to resolve the problem.
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